For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land (Ezekiel 36:24).
“I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.” (Zechariah 12:2-3)
Simply mention the “End Times,” and you are sure to generate as many different opinions as people have favorite colors. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you understand the point.
The study of eschatology (the study of the End Times) and apocalyptic writings in the Bible certainly bring no end to varying interpretations and opinions. Especially when it comes to understanding Israel’s role in the End Times.
The truth is, none of us knows the specific events that will occur, or especially when. Even Jesus stated that only the Father knew the precise day or hour of the eschaton — the end of all things as we know them:
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Matthew 24:36).
While there is much about the End Times, that is unknown and falls into interpretation or even speculation, a lingering question remains — what about Israel? After all, throughout Scripture — both Old and New Testament, the nation of Israel is God’s “chosen people.”
Where does the nation of Israel fit into God’s plan for the End Times? What does God have in store for Israel and the gift of eternal life at the end of the world? Is the existence of the current State of Israel a fulfillment of God’s promises to them?
Old and New Testament Prophecies of Israel
Biblical prophecy about what happens to Israel in the end times is a topic of significant interest and debate among most Christian denominations and theological traditions. These prophecies are primarily found in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Here are some key themes and passages related to Israel in end-time prophecy:
Old Testament Prophecies:
1. Restoration of Israel: Several Old Testament prophets, including Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, prophesied about the restoration of Israel in the end times. This includes the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel after a period of exile and dispersion. See: Ezekiel 36:24-28 (NIV): “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.”
2. Rebuilding of the Temple: Some prophecies suggest the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, often associated with the coming of the Messiah or a future period of spiritual renewal. See: Ezekiel 40:1-4 (NIV): “In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the fall of the city—on that very day the hand of the LORD was on me and he took me there. In visions of God he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. The man said to me, ‘Son of man, look carefully and listen closely and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the people of Israel everything you see.'”
3. Land of Promise: The promise of God to Abraham and his descendants regarding the land of Canaan (later known as Israel) is seen as an enduring covenant, and the fulfillment of this promise is often associated with end-time events. See: Genesis 17:7-8 (NIV): “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
This promise is foundational to the Abrahamic covenant and holds great significance in the biblical narrative. It is often associated with end-time events and the restoration and fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham’s descendants in the context of eschatology. Many interpretations within both Judaism and Christianity see the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel as a sign of God’s faithfulness to this covenant and as part of His unfolding plan for the end times.
These Scriptures are generally seen as a hopeful expectation of God’s faithfulness to His covenant with Israel and the fulfillment of His promises.
New Testament Prophecies:
1. Return of Jesus: In the New Testament, particularly in the Gospels and the book of Revelation, there are references to the return of Jesus Christ. His return is often linked to the restoration and salvation of Israel. See: Revelation 19:11-16 (NIV): “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice, he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh, he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.”
2. End-Time Events in Israel: The book of Revelation contains passages that describe end-time events taking place in Israel, including the Battle of Armageddon, which is often seen as a final confrontation between the forces of good and evil. See: Revelation 16:16 (NIV): “Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.”
It’s important to note that interpretations of the Battle of Armageddon and its connection to Israel can differ among scholars and believers. Some see it as a literal battle, while others view it more symbolically, representing the ultimate confrontation between the forces of righteousness and evil in the cosmic struggle for God’s kingdom.
3. Conversion of Israel: Some interpretations of Romans 11 in the New Testament suggest that there will be a future turning of the Jewish people to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, leading to their spiritual restoration. See: Romans 11:25-26 (NIV): “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.'”
4. Jerusalem as a Center: Jerusalem is frequently mentioned in both Old and New Testament prophecies as a central location for end-time events and as the future capital of God’s kingdom. See: Zechariah 8:3 (NIV): “This is what the LORD says: ‘I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.'” and Isaiah 2:2-3 (NIV): “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”
As you can see, these verses emphasize the future role of Jerusalem as a central location in God’s plan for the end times. They speak to the significance of Jerusalem as a place where God will dwell, where His law will go forth, and where all nations will gather. Additionally, they point to Jerusalem’s role in end-time events, including conflicts and the ultimate establishment of God’s kingdom.
The Current State of Israel
The name of the nation of Israel is derived from the name given to Jacob — the grandson of Abraham and the son of Isaac.
Jacob’s 12 sons were the forefathers of the 12 tribes that became the Jewish nation — the nation of Israel.
It is easy to recognize the trials that the people of Israel — in other words, the nation of Israel, the Jewish people — have survived over the past 3,500 to 4,000 years:
1. Four hundred years of exile and slavery in Egypt, then escape only to wander in the desert for another 40 years before arriving in the “land of milk and honey.”
2. Another 70 years of exile in Babylon after the defeat of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.
3. Two thousand years of dispersion and exile from their homeland under the rule of multiple empires. While the Romans are best known, there were also the Babylonians, Persians, Greek Hellenists, Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans, British — even Christian Crusaders who came from Europe to capture the Holy Land.
4. Dispersion throughout other lands — referred to as the Diaspora — which, of course, could easily have resulted in absorption into other cultures through mixed marriages and simple assimilation or absorption, yet did not.
5. Subjugation — many nations did not willingly accept the Jews into their countries. Russia, for example, was known for its harsh treatment of the Jews, who had no rights. Even during the British rule of their lands, the Jews suffered a great deal of violence at the hands of nearby Arab populations.
6. Genocide — the Holocaust, wherein six million Jews or more were brutally murdered. As much as 60% or more of the entire Jewish population.
And then…in 1948, against all odds, a return to the Promised Land. The new State of Israel. The Jewish community re-established Israel as a sovereign nation with a declaration of independence.
At the time, many orthodox Jews and non-Jews around the world were horrified. Political clashes exist to this day.
And yet, with all of this, the people of Israel have endured. Charles Krauthammer once had this to say about the Jews of Israel:
“Israel is the very embodiment of Jewish continuity: It is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago. You dig the soil and you find pottery from Davidic times, coins from Bar Kokhba, and 2,000-year-old scrolls written in a script remarkably like the one that today advertises ice cream at the corner candy store” (Weekly Standard, 5/11/1998).
Against all odds, the Jewish people have once again returned to the “land of milk and honey” promised by God in Exodus and as exclaimed by prophets throughout the Old Testament.
But — is this the true and final fulfillment of God’s promises and the multitude of prophecies, or simply an event that foreshadows what is to come?
Israel Events Foreshadowing in Scripture
We can certainly disagree on many things in Scripture, but we can agree on this — the Bible is replete with events and promises that often serve only to foreshadow later events.
For example, Abraham’s call to sacrifice his son Isaac foreshadows the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross — God’s one and only son.
Dr. Dan Sered, COO of Jews for Jesus, makes the point:
“…Israel (the people) have never really occupied the full land that God promised Abraham in Genesis 15, just like the people of Israel have never really all 100% believed and followed the Lord. It seems that there has been partial fulfillment all throughout redemptive history but the full fulfillment of all of God’s promises will only occur in the future after the 2nd coming” (It should be noted that this and other statements represent Dr. Sered’s personal views and does not represent those of his organization).
Dan absolutely sees another, more fulfilled future for the nation of Israel:
“With regards to Israel I find that there are many passages and examples of how God fulfilled His promises to Israel and those examples give me all of the assurance and confidence that God will also fulfill all of His promises to Israel in the future. For example, the prophecy that we find in Ezekiel 37:1-14. This text is written while Israel is in exile. And God fulfilled the promise of gathering the dry bones back to the land of Israel (Ezra & Nehemiah) in 538 BC.”
Ezekiel 36:24-27 indeed states God’s promise.
Again, from Dr. Sered:
“But in this prophecy, we see that God would also at some point (future point) fill all of Israel with His spirit and that all of Israel would serve the Lord (in Ezekiel he even refers to Israel as an army for the Lord and in the explanation of the prophecy vs. 11-14 the Lord mentions that all of Israel would know Him). That still has not happened. And following the first return of the people of Israel to the Land, we had another exile and are now back in the land of Israel (1948). So I see this prophecy is being fulfilled again but still Israel is in unbelief.”
Certainly, a national spiritual revival or regeneration by turning to Jesus is not foretold by the Bible prior to Christ’s return, nor is such a prerequisite for the Jewish people to return to the land of Israel. Dr. Sered sees fulfillment upon Christ’s return, as foretold by the prophet Zechariah:
“Romans 11:25-27 assures me that this won’t always be the case. I believe that when Jesus returns all of Israel (all of the Jewish people that are alive in that moment in history) will be saved, will come to know the Lord, they will recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah”(Zechariah 12:10-13:1).
The Valley of Dry Bones and Israel’s Restoration
In Ezekiel 37:4-6, the prophet describes a rather unforgettable vision of a “valley of dry bones.” These dry bones come back to life in stages: tendons, then flesh, then skin.
Then God tells Ezekiel,
“Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off’ (v. 11).
And yet, God clearly has plans for Israel. Dr. Sered put it perfectly:
“God is NOT done with the Jewish people and that in the future God will fulfill all of the promises that He has made to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (i.e., the Jewish people) in the flesh. This does NOT mean that God won’t fulfill His promises to the church and to humanity. God will fulfill all of His promises to all people according to what we are told in God’s word.”
The dry bones. Israel, in exile, without hope, and cut off from their God, and yet, still with God’s promises of a return to their land. Their entire land. To him (Ezekiel 36:27).
And as we know, God will fulfill his promises.
Zechariah 14 describes a future day when Jerusalem will be plundered by her enemies. This is foreshadowed in 2 Kings, when the forces of Nebuchadnezzar broke through Jerusalem’s walls, conquering the city. But then… in verse 14, the prophet says this:
On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south(Zechariah 14:4).
“That day” is a reference to the very day of the return of our Lord — the second coming of Christ — to the very spot from where he ascended 40 days after his resurrection (Acts 1:9-12).
Indeed, God is not done with Israel.
(Thank you to Dr. Dan Sered for his awesome contribution and cooperation with this article!)
For further reading:
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/e-crow
Greg Grandchamp is the author of “In Pursuit of Truth, A Journey Begins” — an easy-to-read search that answers to most common questions about Jesus Christ. Was he real? Who did he claim to be? What did he teach? Greg is an everyday guy on the same journey as everyone else — in pursuit of truth. You can reach Greg by email [email protected] and on Facebook.
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